AFTER: Garden in summer 2017, the third year after removing the lawn
I recently read through Emily Henderson’s backyard makeover and was horrified at the cost ($19k for materials + $10k for design and labor). We were able to replace our lawn for much less – just over $4k for the first three years – because we did the design and labor ourselves, and planted smaller plants that would take a while to grow in.
To be fair, my yard’s smaller and has no remaining lawn; additionally, we don’t have any boulders or hardscape (we plan to install a path) We did build an arbor ourselves, which was the most expensive single part of the initial installation!
BEFORE: My uninspiring “lawn” aka clover patch with two anchor shrubs in May 2013
NOW – my garden, three years after lawn replacement
Three years ago (spring 2015), we ripped out our lawn and replaced it with a pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant, and native garden. We happened to pick the worst possible summer to replace the garden – the drought was so bad the water districts called for voluntary water reductions and asked people to stop watering their lawns etc.
BEFORE – same view of the garden in September 2015, the year of planting.
Front yard in three planting beds, September 2015
When I was selecting plants for my front yard lawn replacement, I had a challenging time guessing which plants would do well, especially the natives. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there about which native plants take well to PNW Puget Lowlands gardens (or maybe I was looking in the wrong spots).
I planted between May and July 2015, shopping at multiple nurseries to get everything (and still couldn’t find everything I’d picked out), so I’m reporting back on how the plants I chose did after an extremely hot and dry summer. I think I had higher-than-normal mortality due to the drought, rabbits, and mistakenly thinking one section of my yard was much shadier than reality.
I’ve divided the blend of native, drought-tolerant, and wildlife-friendly plants into categories: favorites, doing well, surprises, meh, dying, dead, and scrapped.
(Check out the three-year garden update, with lessons learned about plant selection, garden design and the replacement process.)
AFTER: My pollinator garden in 2017
For two years, I dreamed of replacing my lawn with a native, drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden. Finally, I removed my old lawn and replaced it with a garden in 2015. Installation and updates during the first three years (2015 through 2017) cost just over $4,000. As with all major projects, it didn’t go precisely as planned. I’m sharing my successes and misadventures so others in the Puget Lowlands / Seattle area who are considering replacing their lawns with a pollinator garden can avoid repeating my mistakes. See the three-year garden report!
BEFORE: My uninspiring “lawn” aka clover patch with two anchor shrubs in 2013
Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.
Phase One: Planning
- Layout Design
- Plant Selection
Phase Two: Preparation
- Removing the Lawn
- Soil Testing & Amendment
Phase Three: Installation
Sod cutting the lawn.
- Plant layout & planting
- Lighting & hardscape
See how much it cost to DIY install our new garden.
Phase Four: Survival
My garden, three years after lawn replacement
Phase Five: Future!
- Incorporating bulbs
- Adding more mulch & fixing the soaker hoses
Check out the garden after three years here – plus lessons learned on the replacement process, garden design and plant selection.